Guided Adventure

A River Trip to Reconnect

Guided Adventure

A River Retreat to Reconnect

By Monique Beeley

At the beginning of the summer I asked my 8-year old daughter, Kya, what was the one trip she wanted to do this summer. Not quite sure if I was going to get the “Disneyland” response or not…she thought for a minute, then said… “A RIVER TRIP” … I quickly responded, “me too.”


River trips are one of my favorite experiences with my daughter. It’s a place to reconnect, unplug and just have fun. This year we had our sights set on a 3-day Westwater trip. The minimum age for this section of the Colorado River is 8, so it seemed like the ideal plan for this summer. Westwater Canyon is best known for its class III & IV rapids and the fantastic rock formations that are so unique to this area.

Prior to booking our trip with Holiday River Expeditions, I was sure to ask if there were other kids on the trip we were looking at. I was excited to hear that there were several kids already booked. Perfect, I quickly booked the trip and invited Kya’s bestie, Adriana, and her parents to join.


The trip began with a flatwater section, perfect for SUP (my fav), duckies…aka inflatable kayaks, swimming (Kya’s fav) or just chillin on the raft taking in the specular scenery.  As the river miles stacked up, thoughts of home slowly floated from my mind. No cell service on the river...yeah... just 3 days of sun, fun and quality time together.


Our first camp was at Black Rocks, named after the unique black cliffs which are Precambrian basement rock composed of metamorphic Vishnu Schist that line both sides of the river. I had done the lower section of Westwater many times, but this upper section was new to me. I was not familiar with this magnificent location or the epic black cliffs.


We unpacked the boats, set up camp, and had just enough time to wander a bit before the sounds of thunder filled the canyon, creating a sound so tremendous that we all quickly retreated to the shelter of our tents. The intense downpour lasted about 45 minutes. July is monsoon season in the desert and it was a nice reprieve from the 100+ degree heat of the day.

I love the post-rain smells and sights …puddles atop the black rocks, the red rock canyon walls vibrant and a crisp freshness in the air, all made for a wonderful and relaxing evening.


Morning on the river always begins with the “coffee call” from the crew before 7 A.M., followed by the “breakfast call” at 7:30. In addition to being a great boatman, the guides also prepare amazing gourmet meals. This morning’s specialty was fresh blueberry pancakes, bacon, roasted potatoes, and eggs…yum!! The desert morning light is a photographers dream with the sun just peeking over the high cliff walls, the reflectiveness of the river and the vibrant spectrum of colors.


Day 2 was a bit more relaxing while enjoying the flat water, a hike to a beautiful alcove and petroglyphs. I spent my time solo in the duckie just leisurely floating down river, while the girls played in the water, giggling and singing throughout the morning.


We stopped for lunch at a fantastic beach filled with the most amazing smooth river rocks, where the girls, just sat, feet in the water, and looked at the river cobbles. Each one was unique in color and size, and fantastically smooth from many years of the flowing river water.  Following lunch, there was a rapid section that was perfect for swimming. The girls totally loved it, screaming with laughter as the water bobbed them up and down through the waves. Kya probably would have swum the entire river, if she could; she totally loves just being in the water.


We arrived early to camp that afternoon, allowing time to either play in the sand and water or just relax in a comfy camp chair with a book and drink in hand. These are the moments on the river that I cherish, sitting with the calming sounds of the river flowing by, knowing that we are making memories together that will stay with us for a lifetime. Life gets so busy and there are always distractions. Having opportunities to just be and not worry about all the “adulting” stuff… like making dinner or paying bills or feeding the dog or mowing the lawn, and just purely enjoy this time together are precious.


I’m not going to lie…sleeping in a tent when it is super-hot can be uncomfortable to say the least. I chose to set up my tent between two black rock cliff walls that continue to radiate heat from the 100+ degree day throughout the night and didn’t allow for any cool river breeze, which was a huge mistake. Ya, I won’t be making that mistake again.


Day 3 was the wet and wild section of the trip that everyone had been waiting for…rapids, one leading to the next: Marble, Staircase, Hunter’s and Funnel Falls, all leading up to the grand finale, Skull Rapid, which is one of the Colorado’s biggest drops. The action did not disappoint. We all got soaked, which was a nice reprieve on a hot day, more than once. Shouts of excitement mixed with a bit of trepidation and smiles all around… True Success… what an experience to remember.


Driving home that afternoon, I tilted my rearview mirror, as I often do, to look at the wonderful girl in the backseat, feeling an overwhelming sense of love, adoration, and gratitude for this little person who I get the privilege of sharing this amazing journey with. She looked so peaceful and content, sleeping … her beautiful sun-kissed face, crazy dirty river water drenched blond curls, and bits of sand dusting her cheek. Smiling, knowing this would be one of those amazing life experiences that we would always cherish.